"The Gospel, cheek to cheek ", the life of Father Pernet by Paola Bergamini with a preface by Pope Francis.

Paola Bergamini, the author, who lives and works in Milan is a journalist and chief editor of the magazine "Tracce". She has written several religious books. Paola Bergamini’s interest in Father Etienne Pernet, Founder of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, arose from her encounter with the Little Sisters who said to her: "Come and you will see what we are living"

In the preface to this book, written by Pope Francis himself, he shares some of his personal memories with the Little Sisters: "I was less than one day old when Antonia, a young novice with the Little Sisters of the Assumption, founded by Father 
Etienne Pernet, came to our house in the Flores area of Buenos Aires, and held me in her arms. I remained in contact with that sister throughout her life, until she went to Heaven a few years ago. 
I have many memories of those religious who, like silent angels, went to those who were in need, worked patiently, looked after the family, helped them and then silently returned to their convent. They follow their rule, and then go out to the dwellings of persons who are in difficulty." 
 
The book begins with the young Etienne Pernet in his village, Vellexon, at the age of nine, raising the question of the priesthood; then we follow him throughout his life, seeking his place in the Congregation of the Augustinians of the Assumption 
and in the world undergoing great changes.  It appears clearly that, over and beyond the appearances of the rejection of God by 
the working people in the deprived areas of Paris, Father Pernet had the intuition of a need for God who shows Himself with love and gentleness in the actions of daily life. 
 
By their hidden and silent work, they are women who, without too many words, enter hovels of the workers and bring 
 
comfort there through the housework and the care of the sick, following the inspiration of their Founder Etienne Pernet.  The workers, exhausted by the inhuman work in the factories and by poverty, discovered in the humble and patient service of the 
"Pernettes", a new Christianity, a faith which the harshness of life had made them forget. 
Father Pernet is at the centre of the account, always letting himself be questioned by Antoinette Fage, the "Mother" of the Little Sisters and by the Sisters themselves, who were seeking how to broaden their mission in the families and make God and the Church present in society
 
Etienne Pernet also interacted with Christians who, by other means, also showed the loving face of the Church. We see him always on the lookout for situations that might open up paths of evangelisation for the Little Sisters. He enlightened the conscience of persons who had influence in society because of the social status and their wealth: the poor are not looking for alms but for justice and sharing. 
 
As Pope Francis says also in his preface, "Today, we are still living in a time when evangelisation takes place through the testimony of closeness and of charity; evangelisation also leads us to place our cheek against the cheek of the one who is 
suffering, physically and spiritually [...] Thanks to this book, which is pleasant to read and filled with accounts of lives, 
we can come to know the work of Father Etienne Pernet, who was declared venerable my predecessor John Paul II in 1983.  It is a history composed of faces, of dedication, of charitable actions, of pure gratuitousness. "A history that has not lost its freshness, nor its appropriateness". 
 
 
And the Pope continues: "As Mary our Mother teaches us: the only power capable of conquering the heart of human beings is the tenderness of God. What charms and attracts, what opens the chains and frees us from them is not the power of instruments, nor the harshness of the law, but the all-powerful weakness of divine love: the irresistible power of its gentleness and the irreversible promise of its mercy. This gentleness and this mercy to which Father Pernet witnessed throughout his life, and which the Little Sisters, in so many countries of the world, continue to radiate". 
 
This biography of Etienne Pernet, priest of the poor, highlights his simplicity; he was close to the workers, not by ideas but by very simple actions of tenderness and mercy. Today, the Little Sisters are still living this closeness to the persons who are the most deprived in the poorer districts, on all the continents. 
 
 
Il Vangelo guancia a guancia, vita di padre Pernet de Paola Bergamini, prefazione di papa Francesco
 éditions Piemme
16/03/2018
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